Hunter farmers want a freight subsidy

DROUGHT PLEA: Dairy farmer Jamie Marquet with some of the hay bales that are coming to his farm from South Australia. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.
DROUGHT PLEA: Dairy farmer Jamie Marquet with some of the hay bales that are coming to his farm from South Australia. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Hunter farmers have called on the state government to give them a freight subsidy instead of spending money on a new skate park in Newcastle and stadiums in Sydney. 

It comes after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced $584 million in drought help, which heavily focused on loans. 

Dungog dairy farmer Keith Watkins said the last thing farmers needed was another loan.

He said dairy farmers were battling to stay afloat as it was with the low milk price, and the bite of the drought was having a serious financial impact.

A freight subsidy would put more money in his pocket, which would help him feed his herd through winter.

The announcement is terrible, it’s lousy, how the hell are we going to pay it back with the price of milk that we’re on. Farmers are just going to get further and further into debt,

Mr Watkins said.

The state government is throwing $5 million into the South Newcastle beach skate park, $730 million into a new stadium at Moree Park and $810 million into refurbishing ANZ Stadium.

“They should be putting that money into the farmers,” Mr Watkins said. 

“They’ve got their priorities wrong – sport comes before hospitals even these days, the farmers need to be up there near the top of the list.”

The government’s drought package has added the collection and storage of livestock genetics to the Farm Innovation Fund criteria.

That is one of the points the Mercury calls for in it’s NSW drought petition. 

Want to help?

Click here to receive a copy of the petition and collect signatures in your community.

The fund has been increased from $250,000 to $500,000 and more staff will be on hand to process the applications. 

Loans of $50,000, through the fund, have also been made available which can be used to buy fodder, grain, move livestock and install key water infrastructure or water-saving technology.

The loans do not incur any interest and repayments do not begin until two years after the area is no longer in drought, the government has confirmed.

Ms Berejiklian said the government was doing everything it could to make sure the right help was available at the right time.

We are determined to stand side by side with our farmers which is why we are providing both funding for drought resilience through our Farm Innovation Fund and strong mental healthcare support to get people through this tough time,

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Wallarobba dairy farmer Jamie Marquet said freight was one of the biggest costs farmers faced. 

Mr Marquet has been trucking hay to his farm from South Australia since September last year and paying more than half of each load in freight. 

Mr Watkins is also still buying in hay from South Australia. 

This is happening even though the Lower Hunter has received rain over the past couple of months. 

We keep pointing our finger at this one thing because that’s what we think would help us the most,

Mr Marquet said.

“We are still feeling the effects of the drought.”

Mr Marquet urged the region to sign the Mercury’s petition.

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